Augmented Reality (AR) for phones first dropped into my field of vision with Google’s Sky Map on Android. That was the first time I’d ever seen hands-on how AR could actually be a useful tool. Unsurprisingly, it’s the home of the fart app that is now bringing us AR games. Useful? No, but pretty cool!
The iPhone’s headline act is Star Wars Arcade: Falcon Gunner. This sees you helming the Millennium Falcon’s guns against waves of attacking Tie Fighters that fly over the view from your camera. Depending on the views you can find, it can be pretty cool. It’s not the best game ever though, and you may ask if the AR party trick is worth the relatively high price.
ARDefender takes a different approach. It’s a super simple tower defence game, which requires you to print out a PDF ‘tag’, which you place in front of you or on the floor. The game builds a 3D tower on this tag, and machines attack it from all sides while you fend them off with guns and missiles. ARDefender is cheap at 99c, but it’s loads of fun and will impress anyone!
There is also an AR laser-quest style game called Gunman, which doesn’t augment reality with any fancy graphics. Assuming your friends all have iPhones and different color shirts, you can run around shooting each other sniper style with your iPhone camera…but you’ll probably want to explain to passers-by what you’re doing!
If you want a taste of AR gaming, get ARDefender. It’s cheap, fun and looks cool. These three games feel very much like the beginning of a technology (and they really eat up your battery!). I’m sure things will get more interesting pretty soon, as the existence of lots of powerful smartphones means developers have a big market to exploit.